New insights revealed from survey of people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Ireland

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  • 65% of patients worry about the possibility of becoming disabled as a result of their RA
  • 64% of patients worry about the damage RA may be causing to their joints
  • 77% of patients currently taking prescription medications for their RA surveyed wish they could take fewer medications
  • 40,000 people living with RA in Ireland

The first survey of its kind among people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Ireland has revealed the considerable impact the condition has on quality of life, particularly in relation to career. Fifty percent of people surveyed have had a job change, including 17% who have retired from work and 13% have quit due to their condition. Furthermore, 24% of patients have reduced their working hours based on the impact of their RA.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory auto-immune condition that can range in severity from mild or moderate to severe. In Ireland around 40,000 people have RA , the majority of which (70%) are women. RA can cause a range of symptoms, including pain and swelling in the joints, particularly those in the hands, feet and knees.

The survey of 176 people with RA in Ireland whose RA is currently treated by a rheumatologist was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Arthritis Ireland as part of Pfizer’s RA NarRAtive initiative, aimed at elevating the important role of the patient in the successful management of RA.

In addition to the impact on career, the survey revealed that 88% of patients worry about disease progression (including the possibility of becoming disabled, joint damage, their disease getting worse, or getting/staying in remission), 69% worry that RA will negatively affect their quality of life and 64% are concerned it will affect their ability to lead an independent life.

The RA NarRAtive patient survey is the first of its kind in Ireland to evaluate RA patients’ experiences and satisfaction with treatment and disease management. On average, RA patients who participated in the survey were diagnosed at about 40 years of age, and have been living with RA for 10 years. All data reported here are based on patients who are primarily treated by a rheumatologist and almost 70% reported being satisfied with the communication they have with their health care professional about the treatment of their RA.

When asked about their goals for managing RA, 68% of patients surveyed have goals to reduce fatigue, 63% would like to reduce pain and 50% cite reduced joint swelling and inflammation. Furthermore, 64% of patients would like to increase their level of physical activity and 56% would like to be able to conduct daily activities more comfortably.

With regard to treatment, 77% of patients surveyed currently taking prescription medications wish they could take fewer medications for their RA. Three out of four (76%) sometimes worry that their RA medication will fail and more than half (52%) wish they had more medication options available.

In terms of getting information and advice about living with RA, a variety of resources are used, most notably healthcare professionals (78%), online resources (56%) and patient support groups/advocacy organisations such as Arthritis Ireland (52%).

Commenting on the survey results, Professor Doug Veale, Consultant Rheumatologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital, said: “This research is incredibly insightful and a welcome development in identifying the needs of RA patients. As a physician, I am always keen to understand patient feedback, their concerns and requirements. The patient feedback indicates the need to determine an effective, collaborative relationship between patients and their RA physician to work together to better manage RA. It is vital that RA patients are presented with treatment options and there is a need for ongoing development into new, innovative treatments.”

Gráinne O'Leary, Head of Services at Arthritis Ireland, welcomed the survey: “The responses from patients tell us that a primary concern is the impact RA has on their quality of life. At Arthritis Ireland we have developed a suite of self-management programmes to give people the skills and tools to live with their diagnosis daily. This new research identifies the need for greater services around the country to assist those with RA to live a normal, active life and to empower them to work with their specialist to manage the condition.”

Dr Declan O’Callaghan, Medical Director at Pfizer Healthcare Ireland commented: “The survey results highlight the importance of elevating the key role of the patient in the successful management of RA. It is encouraging to see that compliance among RA patients is high with 77% taking their current medicines as prescribed. The RA NarRAtive is an important initiative for Pfizer as we continuously work to better understand ways to support those people with RA to manage their treatment and daily life with the condition.”

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